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Six Nations Pledge to Safeguard Coral Triangle
MANADO, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, May 15, 2009 (ENS) - The leaders of six countries today signed a declaration that officially launches the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security. The leaders pledged "accelerated and collaborative action" in protecting the 1.6 billion acre Coral Triangle region - considered the world's epicenter for marine life.

The leaders of Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Malaysia declared that they will address threats to the marine, coastal and small island ecosystems within the Coral Triangle.

Hundreds of coral species flourish in the Coral Triangle (Photo by Daniel and Robbie Wisdom)

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines, Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta of Timor Leste, Prime Minister Michael Somare of Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Derek Sikua of Solomon Islands and Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia launched the Coral Triangle Initiative at their one-day summit, which followed a week of preparatory talks here.

They adopted the 10-year Regional CTI Plan of Action, which is not legally binding but sets time limits to address growing threats to the region's coral reefs, fisheries, mangroves, threatened species and other marine and coastal living resources.

The natural resources of the Coral Triangle are at risk due to overfishing, illegal fishing, unsustainable coastal development, pollution and climate change.

President Yudhoyono welcomed the declaration as an ambitious government-level action plan to preserve marine resources.

He said when the 1992 Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders did not sign a treaty for the preservation of oceans, which cover 72 percent of the Earth. "That is why we are gathering here now to prevent the destruction of the riches and safeguard them for the next generation," he said.

"We also invited partners to join us in the effort.The governments of the United States and Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature readily accepted this role," he said.

President Yudhoyono said that the six governments have achieved a new level of understanding. First, they have formally recognized that the Coral Triangle was the very center of marine life abundance and diversity on the planet.

"Over 100 million of our citizens depend every day on these critical marine resources for their income, their livelihoods, their food security and the protection of their coast," he said.

Secondly, they recognized that threats to these precious marine and coastal resources were growing each day.

"These threats stem from climate change that is causing the sea level to rise and the sea surface temperature to increase. We must therefore adapt to these climate change impacts. We need a risk reduction strategy," the president said.

Thirdly, they identified that they ought to address these threats and reserve the trend of rising sea level and increasing sea surface temperature.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang addresses the World Ocean Conference (Photo courtesy Office of the President)

President Yudhoyono also announced that his government intends to designate 20 million hectares of marine protected areas across Indonesia by 2010. This week, Indonesia formally established the Savu Sea National Marine Fisheries Sanctuary, covering some 3.9 million hectares in the southern seas of Indonesia, bordering Timor-Leste.

Over the next three years, the Indonesian government will seek a doubling of the current national budget dedicated to specific programs and activities stipulated in the CTI Regional Plan of Action.

President Yudhoyono also announced Indonesia's offer to be the host of a permanent CTI Secretariat to support the implementation of the action plan. "If the other Coral Triangle countries accept this offer, we are prepared to provide full financial support for day-to-day operations of the secretariat," he said.

The president said that Indonesia is ready to pledge US$5 million for the CTI program.

Philippine President Arroyo said the declaration confirms the commitment of the six countries to protect the sea and find a harmonious relationship between life and the environment.

Malaysian Prime Minister Razak said he considers the declaration a political commitment for marine preservation.

The Coral Triangle Initiative declaration was signed at the World Ocean Conference, which has been taking place all this week in Manado.

A report issued by WWF at the conference warns that without action on climate change, coral reefs will disappear from the Coral Triangle by the end of the century, the ability of the region's coastal environments to feed people will decline by 80 percent, and the livelihoods of around 120 million people will have been lost or severely impacted.

The Coral Triangle Initiative declaration is a signal to other leaders ahead of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December, when world leaders will gather to agree on a greenhouse gas limitation treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

"WWF urges world leaders meeting in Copenhagen to support Coral Triangle countries in their efforts to protect their most vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change and the loss of food and livelihoods," said WWF Director General James Leape.

"Reaching a strong agreement on greenhouse gas reductions is critical as is robust support for regional adaptation. The transformational CTI Plan of Action provides a framework for engaging the private sector in adaptation through public private partnership," Leape said.

"In 30 years of conservation work, I have never seen anything like this; six leaders signing a commitment to protect their marine resources for the well-being of their citizens and future generations," said Conservation International's Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann.

The Nature Conservancy's Chairman of the Board of Directors, Roger Milliken Jr., said, "We are inspired by the bold vision of the CTI and the significant commitments that the six leaders made today. Our continued engagement, building on nearly two decades of conservation in this region, with governments, regional institutions and local communities we hope will contribute to this extraordinary initiative for the benefit of nature and people living in this region and beyond."

Covering only two percent of the world's ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 76 percent of all known coral species and a wide variety of fish. It supports the largest tuna fisheries in the world, which generate billions of dollars in global income every year. Its healthy reef systems buffer coastal communities from cyclones and tsunamis.

The CTI Plan of Action spells out priority actions for seascapes, fisheries management, marine protected areas, climate change adaptation and threatened species throughout the region.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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